Nigeria: A Writer’s Tale of Those ‘Lost in the Wind’
By Eseohe Ebhota
‘Lost in the Wind’ is a revealing novel that would inject a dose of trepidation into any reader’s heart from the turn of the first page. Written at a time when insecurity seems to be the major problem in the country, it is set in Northern Nigeria and narrates the experiences of those who lost their lives and properties during sectarian and ethno-religious crises that engulfed the region.
Lando town had been taken over by rioters. At Namanu textiles, where Sam, the major character works, fear gripped everyone. Sam was about to round-off his work for the day when the sound of the rioters’ approach filtered through. In page three, the 1st paragraph, It reads, “Sam, ka bar office yenzu fa. Suna rigima a gari) which means “Sam, leave the office now. There’s trouble in town. Thus, the rendition of the word “yenzu” in the 1st sentence and “suna” in the second sentence is wrong. The correct spelling of the word is “yanzu” and in the second sentence, “Suna” means “name” therefore the context in which it is used here is also inappropriate. The word “they” in Hausa is “su na”, it is two words not one as written. The same word “suna” can also be found in the fourth paragraph on the same page.
After leaving the office, Sam took a great risk when he decided to head to a part of town called ‘Kaji’. The town was tense and the best thing he should have done was to think of his safety. But well, he had the interest of his friends hence his taking the long trek to Kaji.
It got to a point where they were holed up in an apartment and it took the intervention of an old military man, before they could come out. This occurred when the rioters were saying their Dhurh prayers. Chapter 11 opens with the words “STOP” which comes from one of the houses along the road Sam and others were passing through. The order was given by a middle-aged man who warns them of the danger that lies ahead if they proceed. They are taken aback by his mien as it seems too good to be true that a total stranger would beckon on them to ensure that they are safe. They believe him and they are taken to the house of the district ruler who in turn makes sure that his guests are well-taken care of.
After some hours of rest, the group then proceeded on their journey to the barracks. They were greeted with another sight: the barracks was filled with people who had come from different parts of Lando town to seek refuge from the rioters.
At that moment, Sam knew that if something wasn’t done to bring an end to the crises, there would be more deaths, but this time, from hunger. He had not eaten a good meal since the unrest had taken over the town except the meal he had at the palace of the district ruler of the town. While taking an evening stroll round the barracks to look for where he could see a chemist so that he could purchase some drugs for his cousin who suffering from stomach ache, he met an old acquaintance who was a school mate in their primary school days. His name is Matthew. Matthew worked with the NSS, a security agency and was undercover as a member of the dreaded Al-Faki sect responsible for the destruction of lives and properties in the town.
Matthew and Sam discussed about the current situation of things in Lando and its neighbouring towns. Matthew gave him the situation of things as they were at that moment. He told Sam that they had told other security agencies about the crises which if it had been “nipped in the bud”, it wouldn’t have degenerated into what it was.
They walked on together until they got to where Matthew was residing in the barracks. He met a lady in Matthew’s apartment whose name was Juliana. She was also an undercover agent working with the NSS. After settling down, and Matthew left for a “meeting”, Juliana and Sam had a very lengthy discussion about the dreaded sect and the sponsors. Sam learnt some new things that day: the mastermind behind the killings and looting in Lando, the reason for the killings and the efforts made so that the culprits and their sponsors can be made to face the wrath of the law.
Chapter 18 takes you into the minds of people. Here they express how they feel about the current happenings in the town. Sectarian violence is not a very joyful thing to witness as it brings untold hardship and suffering to those who survive it. On that morning, Sam heads out to see if he can get any of the dailies to read. Then he spots his favorite The Daily Despatch. Some of the headlines that day were “Bloodbath at Sunrise”, “Lando erupts, scores killed, bomb blast in Nassarawa” and so many others. Sam’s heart raced when he saw the news about the bomb blast. He became jittery but he had to pull himself together before anyone would suspect that he had anything to do with the bomb blast. He got up from the stone he sat and walked home briskly.
Reading further from this point takes us to when Sam is arrested and put into police custody, courtesy of a quack lawyer Barrister Amadi, who would use every opportunity to make money. He takes the documents back to Alhaji Dan Suna who in turn has Sam arrested.
Now Sam is in police custody and while in jail, he is tortured by other inmates who coincidentally happen to be Alhaji Dan Suna’s “boys”. They maltreat him, torture him and call him all sorts of unprintable names. One of them calls him “Dan banza kawai”. Here the author misses it again. Every competent speaker and writer of Hausa language would know that the spelling of that word is wrong. The correct rendition is “kawai” not “kowe” which means “stupid man”. This can be found in the 10th paragraph of chapter 26 on page 222. In the 14th paragraph on the same page, you can find another wrongly written hausa sentence. “dan banza mutun ni wona”. This sentence can be written in two different ways: 1) “Wannan dan bana mutum ne”
2) “Wannan mutum dan banza ne”
In Chapter 28 page 41, paragraph 2, the sentences”bana so stories” and “wanna aiki na Allah ne” are wrongly written too. In the 1st sentence, the word “bana” should have been written as 2 words not one because it means ” I don’t ” whoch connotes negation. In the sentence too, there is a bit of what linguists call “code-mixing (Hausa+English). In the second sentences, the author omits the use of the linkal element “n’ which plays a very important role in Hausa. The “n” functions as a possessive, depending on the context it is used. In this case, the sentence should have been written as “ba na son” not “bana so”
While writing some of these sentences and phrases in Hausa, the author “broke” the rules governing the sentence formation in the language. One of which is the omission of the linkal element “n” in the word “so”. “So” is a word which means “like” or “love” but in this case, it means “like.”
The story ends on a sad note as Sam’s love interest, Elina died. Despite the fact that she died because she had sickle-cell anemia, the villagers blamed it on witchcraft. Thus, Sam’s stand as a Christian became a matter for doubt because he too thought so. “Lost in the wind” is one novel you’ll always love to read any time any day. The setting, plot, cast and even the genre of literature makes it a classic book to read. The book was written by Mr. Theophilus Abbah who is a journalist and an editor with Sunday Trust Newspapers. He was one of the finalists in the 2011 Daniel Pearle award for investigative reporting and also his report on fuel subsidy fraud in Nigeria was a 2012 runner-up of the Wole Soyinka Investigative Journalism Award in Nigeria.
“Lost in the wind” is his first novel.
Published in Daily Trust of May 3, 2014